An effort to deny right to hear Minister Farrakhan and deny Black human rights ended in defeat in Great Britain. The courage to fight injustice yielded success.
“You must not fear them, for the Lord your God Himself fights for you.”
—Deuteronomy 3:21 (NKJV)
“And fight in the way of Allah, and know that Allah is Hearing, Knowing.”
—Holy Qur’an 2:244
“Without Goliath, there would be no David,” said Rashid Nix. The longtime community activist referenced the biblical story of a young son of a shepherd who defeated an “invincible” giant as a parallel for what is viewed by many as an improbable if not unlikely task—Black folks boldly challenging two powerful British institutions and emerging victorious.
However, that is exactly what the Nation of Islam and Black activists did in the UK.
A High Court decided May 10 that Lambeth Council and the Metropolitan Police were wrong to interfere with and block the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan from addressing the Africa International Day of Action in London’s Kennington Park on August 5, 2017. It was a breach of his human rights and the human rights of 34 Black British citizens, said the court.
It is a significant ruling that could have a lasting impact on the rights of Black Brits to pursue and fight for their rights as citizens. The Council and Met Police must pay £92,500 ($130,435) as a result of the ruling.
“They wanted to cut us off; cut the free-flowing nature of Min. Farrakhan’s voice from flowing here in the United Kingdom. Therefore, they would put a total ban on the Minister if we didn’t challenge this,” said Student Minister Abdul Hakeem Muhammad, European Region Representative of the Nation of Islam. The decision to fight the unjust attack against Min. Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam and Black people by filing a lawsuit and the subsequent ruling of the High Court is significant, he explained.
“What it’s done now is it’s had the opposite effect. It’s put all the other Councils and others on notice—we will fight you, if you try. There are a group of people here, who are not scared, who have what it takes to stand up and fight you.”
Although there has been an over three-decade ban imposed by the UK government prohibiting Min. Farrakhan from entering the country, the banning of even allowing him to address Black people remotely was adding insult to injury in the eyes of his UK supporters.
So, under the leadership of Student Min. Hakeem Muhammad as the lead claimant in the lawsuit, they were determined to fight back. He along with over 30 members of the Nation of Islam’s London Mosque and two local activists stepped out on faith and truth.
Black unity: A threat to White dominance
The Africa International Day of Action had been observed and celebrated since 2014 by several Black organizations in London. The gatherings are a chance for Blacks in the city, particularly around Brixton, to come together to celebrate their history, culture, food, arts and music. More importantly, the event provides an avenue for Blacks to discuss serious issues that impact their community such as: crime, mental health, housing, poverty, employment, reparations and the enslavement of African/Black people.
According to the 2011 Census, the total population of England and Wales was 56.1 million, and 86.0 percent of the population was White. Black ethnic groups made up 3.3 percent of the population. The total Black population in London was approximately 1.1 million. Most Blacks live within the four boroughs of South London and Lambeth has the highest total Black population in the city.
Racism toward Blacks in the UK continues to be a problem. According to the 2020 report, “Young and Black: The Young Black Experience of Institutional Racism in the UK,” 95 percent of young Black British people have witnessed racist language in education and two-thirds say they do not trust the police to act fairly toward them among other findings. Blacks in the UK are also disproportionately at the bottom of the rung when it comes to economic opportunities.
The push toward Black unity is an ongoing one. Although the Nation of Islam was an active participant in previous Africa International Day of Action gatherings, 2017 was the first time the NOI were event co-sponsors and the issue of reparations was front and center. The theme of the Minister’s address was “Reparations: What Does the U.K. and Europe Owe Us?”
However, despite almost a year of meeting, conversations, and planning with local political leaders, who controlled the park permit for the annual event, organizers were informed of major restrictions at the last minute.
Min. Farrakhan was scheduled to deliver remarks remotely from the U.S. and his message was to be broadcast on a jumbo screen in the park. Hundreds of people had assembled in the park Aug. 5 expecting to hear from the Muslim and world leader.
That day the address by Min. Farrakhan was prohibited by last minute restrictions imposed by the Lambeth Council, a local governing body similar to a U.S. city council.
Additionally, Student Min. Hakeem Muhammad and members of the Nation of Islam were barred from speaking and distributing any literature as part of the restrictions. People were directed that day to view Min. Farrakhan’s message on his Facebook Page.
Authorities justified the Lambeth ban by saying there were worries about public or counter protestors from the far right, gay groups and Jewish organizations opposed to Min. Farrakhan’s words. To add to the insult, Metropolitan Police were in full force that day at Kennington Park at what is historically a peaceful family event.
“What was happening here was you had a local Council, that was basically telling Black people who you can and cannot listen to; who can and cannot speak. Keep Min. Farrakhan out of the equation for a second and you’re telling us that we can’t speak or the brother (Abdul Hakeem Muhammad) that I know for years, he can’t speak on a platform in his own community? This is the height of disrespect,” said Mr. Nix.
Four years ago, Mr. Nix was a presenter with Genesis Radio in London with a show called, “The Peoples Talk Show.” “We covered the event for Genesis Radio, so we saw everything, how it unfolded, where different people came down to the park to speak. But there was a ban on Brother Abdul Hakeem from speaking and other members of the Nation of Islam,” Mr. Nix said.
The UK doesn’t even respect its own laws, he argued.
“Why the local government was acting so fearful I don’t know. I think they just fear the idea of Black people having a conversation. We’re not even supposed to talk to each other. It’s very strange. Very strange.”
Stepping out on faith and truth
There were no second thoughts by Student Min. Muhammad that he would pursue legal action against Lambeth Council and Metropolitan Police in the aftermath of what took place. He immediately discussed it with Muslims of the London NOI mosque and those who were able to sign on to be a part of the suit. Mr. Nix and Abu Akil, of Global African Congress UK, also joined on as claimants. Student Min. Muhammad, the lead claimant, began looking for a legal team.
“There are loads of procedures and that’s why this case, it took four years because that’s the kind of case that you have to be bringing. It has to be strong, because once you get there, it will make or break you. If you don’t win and you’re a civilian, you will be bankrupt,” he explained.
“Had we lost this case we would have been in for fees, well over probably a million dollars, because the, the fees of the police and Lambeth jointly would have been at least £500,000-700,000 ($704,000 to $986,600), which would have taken it to a million dollars if you translate it.”
Solicitor Andre Clovis assembled the legal team and he was up to the task. There are certain rights British citizens have under the Human Rights Act, he told The Final Call. “The first of those rights is under Article Nine, which is essentially the right to religious expression; your own social and political views; Article 10, which is the right to free speech and Article 11, which is the right to assembly. When we talk about assembly, we talk about that in terms of being able to stay with your community, or being able to stay in a group and share a common view. Those are fundamental rights,” he explained.
In addition to Mr. Clovis, the legal team included, Iain Daniels, Barrister; Martin Forde, QC; Tamara Muhammad, Barrister; Lucinda Hawthorne and Caroline Bayyoud.
What the Lambeth Council and Metropolitan Police did in barring Min. Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam from speaking at the festival violated those rights, the attorney continued. The Human Rights Act in the UK is similar to certain amendments laid out in the U.S. Constitution. However, in the UK, these are not “absolute rights.”
The last human rights pursued in the case was Article 14 which is the “right not to be discriminated against based on a particular characteristic,” and against government misfeasance. The claim against Lambeth was in relation to the issuance of permits but the claim against the police was slightly different, said Mr. Clovis.
A senior police commander wrote a letter stating the Metropolitan Police would only withdraw their objections to the Aug. 5 event if the Nation of Islam would “accept that the view and opinions of Min. Farrakhan are divisive.”
“Now that’s clearly never going to happen,” said Mr. Clovis.
Though there may be some limits on free speech in the UK, you cannot control what people think, argued the lawyer. “That’s what the commander was trying to achieve. Both Lambeth and the Met Police amended their defenses once it became clear they were not solid or sustainable.
“We were always willing and made various invitations to sit down and talk to us to try and mediate a way out,” said Mr. Clovis. The settlement required Lambeth and the police to admit to breaches of Articles 9 and 10. “They did that. They admitted the breach of infringing our right to religious, social and political expression and they admitted to breaching our rights to free speech.”
A big part of the settlement also includes a declaration which is something that can only be agreed to and granted by the High Court. The court must look at the issues and consider whether it’s sufficiently serious enough to warrant additional intervention.
“What we’re asking the courts to do is to make a declaration that the claimants Articles 9 and 10 rights were breached. After some argument, the defendants in the end conceded that there should be these declarations made. Even though they conceded it, it’s still not open to the parties to agree, the court has to come to its own conclusion; and it did come to a conclusion that the claimants rights and the articles were breached. So that’s a matter of party record, it’s a public finding against both defendants (the Lambeth Council and Metropolitan Police) and the declarations are not given easily,” explained Mr. Clovis.
Mr. Nix respects Min. Farrakhan so when he was asked about signing on to the lawsuit against Lambeth Council and the Metropolitan Police, he had no second thoughts. “Everyone knew that it was an absolute disrespect to our community. So, when the brother (Abdul Hakeem Muhammad) said, ‘there’s a case going on, who’s interested?’ I said, ‘Hell yeah! Hell yeah, I’m in,” Mr. Nix said.
“There was a lot of police present on that day. And people, Africans present were in an uproar about it. We were deeply upset about it. This claim is a powerful, powerful statement of our solidarity as African family and the strength and determination of the Nation of Islam in driving forward basic principles around our human rights that we have,” explained Mr. Akil.
“I’ve known and labored alongside these brothers for years. They are stalwarts in the community, and we are indebted to them for the support they have given the people of Brixton. It was a great honor to be part of this magnificent group that took on the two major UK institutions and won a historic victory. It will take a few days to properly sink in, but we really won. God is real and we give thanks!” said Mr. Nix.
The UK does not put a high value on peoples’ rights or lives, explained Mr. Clovis. The country has a culture of protected estate and laws are designed around that so £92,500 is quite an exceptional outcome plus the defendants must pay all legal costs for all the winning parties in the lawsuit.
“I think it was a huge victory,” said Mr. Clovis. “Because the Nation, really for the first time in the UK, stood up to the authorities in the sense of being engaged in litigation. They held them to account. When it came down to it the authorities didn’t have the wherewithal to actually want to go to bat in the courtroom. And in that sense, this victory tells the authorities that no longer will the Nation tolerate mistreatment.”
Since the victory, Mr. Clovis said he has been contacted by other Black lawyers in the UK who did not know he was working on the case. There will be no shortage of Black lawyers now willing to take on these types of cases, he stated.
“In the future, if there are other fights to be had … I think there will be no limit of Black lawyers wanting to take this up and take these fights to the authorities. I think it’s given everybody courage because I think, even within the Black community, there’s still a bit of nervousness around the Nation of Islam. I think this is shown as nothing to be worried about,” continued Mr. Clovis.
The willingness to take on this fight was not just for the Nation of Islam, explained Student Min. Muhammad. “The fight was for our community to have the freedom to hear God’s man whenever they so desire, or if they decide to put on an event and have him as the keynote speaker or broadcast one of his messages, then they have now the freedom to so do,” he said.
“That’s what we secured, not for us, but for any member of the community who wants to showcase the Minister. You can go in Lambeth now and do it without fear of them trying to shut you down,” continued Student Min. Muhammad.
“The community has recognized that this is the victory for the Black community, led by the Nation of Islam. This is not a victory for the Nation. It’s a victory for the community. We are just at the vanguard of pursuing this; just like David. When the children of Israel were at war, no one wanted to take on the big Goliath.
But, David, who was represented by the Nation, took on the challenge. The Nation jumped into the position of David and slew this big beast that seemed unshakeable,” he added. “Allah (God) gave us a victory and we used our belief and faith and trust in the God of the Minister and He blessed us with a victory.”
(Final Call staff contributed to this report.)